Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: February 26, 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5+ Stars
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
First, just take note that I have given this book 5+ stars. I’ve never used that rating, mainly because it isn't really a rating. But I had to use it, because Eleanor & Park deserves its own rating. The moment I finished it, I wanted to start right back at the beginning and read it all over again. That doesn't happen to me very often, and when it does, the book has to be nearly perfect—books like Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars.
Reading this story was like getting a breath of fresh air and choking at the same time. Something good happened, and then something bad hit you like a storm. It was terrible, incredible, and quite smart on Rainbow Rowell’s part. That said, I didn't feel like there was much of a plot. Normally this would be a bad thing because I would grow bored very easily. But in Eleanor & Park, we are too caught up in the characters lives, emotions, and small details than we were in the literal events that occurred. And that was okay—for this novel, at least.
Now that we’re on the topic of characters, we should talk about them. I’ve never read about such real, realistic characters. I felt as if I could talk to them, as if they were going to jump straight out of the book. It was like I was reading a true story. I loved how we got to see both Eleanor and Park’s perspectives. Their voices were unique and not at all monotonous. I’ve read YA novels where there are two perspectives I can’t even tell apart, as well as books where I couldn't wait to get to the next character’s perspective because a particular one was boring. But with Eleanor & Park, I was fine with either one. They each brought their own opinions and weaved them into the story like they were facts.
I’m going to sound crazy when I say this, but here’s the thing: I don’t think this book is about Eleanor and Park. At least, it isn't just about them. It’s about the real world and how terrible it can be. It’s about how you can have a horrible life and still smile and laugh during those rare happy moments. It’s about love, and how despite what we’d like to think, it doesn't survive through everything. It doesn't survive through most things, because in the end it’s just love.
That’s why we turn to books. Because in books, love is everything. But this novel was real. So, so real—which meant that love could heal some things, but not others. It meant that love didn't stand the test of time, or the test of a broken family. Love stands however long you let it stand, or however long you can stand before you fall.
All in all, I didn't even know a book could be this good. Rainbow Rowell is officially one of my new favorite authors, even more so than she was after I read Fangirl (review here). If you’re looking for a realistic, tear-jerking, caring story of first love, pick up Eleanor & Park. You won’t be sorry.